Rare fungus found - but then eaten

A RARE fungus - on the Government's “endangered list” - was eaten by a deer shortly after it was found in an ancient East Anglian wood, conservationists disclosed yesterday.

By David Green

A RARE fungus - on the Government's “endangered list” - was eaten by a deer shortly after it was found in an ancient East Anglian wood, conservationists disclosed yesterday.

Captain's Wood at Sudbourne, was purchased by the Suffolk Wildlife Trust last year after being in private ownership for centuries.

However, its wildlife riches are only now starting to be uncovered and conservationists are excited about what may be found over the next few years.


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The latest find is very rare oak polypore fungus growing on one of the ancient oak trees to be found on the site.

The fungus, which is not edible by humans and which only fruits on oaks between 250 and 800 years old, is on the Government's Red Data List of endangered species, protected by law.

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The wildlife trust has erected a “brush” fence - made up of dead branches - around the tree involved because, soon after its discovery, the fungus was eaten by a deer.

Officials believe other, currently dormant, specimens of the same variety could appear on the tree and they want to protect it from fallow deer who graze the area in large numbers.

Peter Jordan, who lives in Southwold and is Suffolk's acknowledged fungus expert, said more rare specimens could be found in Captain's Wood when he undertook a detailed survey this autumn.

“It is a very special wood and we are very excited by what may be found there,” he said.

Mr Jordan said there might be a need to control numbers of fallow deer in the wood because they could cause widespread damage.

Neil Mahler , who lives in Leiston and is also a fungi expert, said the polypore fungus was only palatable to deer when it was young and fleshy, before spores were produced.

“Therefore there are no spores to pass through the deer's digestion system to be excreted and germinate elsewhere,” he said.

Mr Mahler said that because Britain had a good population of ancient oak trees, it was the world stronghold of the oak polypore fungus.

“Very little is known about its habitat requirements,” he added.

Steve Ayleward , Suffolk Wildlife Trust spokesman, said a management plan was being drawn up for Captain's Wood but it was too early to say whether this would include controlling deer numbers.

“If we did go ahead it would have to be based on good ecological grounds.

“A lot of our neighbours there are already culling but at the moment there is not enough information. The deer graze the glades between the trees and may be one of the critical reasons the wood has survived in its present condition. It is all about finding the right balance,” he said.

david.green@eadt.co.uk

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